FMM condemns expulsion of British media team

[TamilNet, Monday, 08 October 2007, 09:21 GMT]
"Jaffna is one of the most dangerous places in the world today for media and journalism," said Free Media Movement (FMM), a Colombo based media watchdog, stating it was appalled by the gross violation of journalists' rights by the military command in Jaffna in expelling three journalists last week. The journalists from the British Quicksilver Media were traveling in Sri Lanka to produce a documentary for Channel 4 television in UK.

Full text of the press release issued by the FMM follows:

FMM decries military expelling journalists from Jaffna

Free Media Movement is appalled by the gross violation of journalists' rights by military hierarchy in expelling three journalists from Jaffna who had even obtained MOD (Ministry of Defence) clearance to make a documentary.

Quick Silver Media, which is currently traveling in Sri Lanka to produce a documentary for Channel 4 television in UK was denied to carry out its duties independently in Jaffna by the military. A team of three female journalists (two foreigners and a local) arrived in Jaffna on October 4th 2007 by a commercial flight. They were planning to stay in Jaffna till October 7th 2007.

They had obtained the MOD approval to video areas and interview people in Jaffna, between October 4 – 7, and visit locations in Mannar, Vavuniya and the east.

The three female journalists have booked accommodation at a privately owned guest house in Jaffna town during their stay till October 7 th 2007. But they were asked to stay at an army base in Palaly. They refused to do so as it was against their will. Later they were accompanied to the privately owned guest house by the military, although the visiting journalists kept objecting for the military escort. After half an hour the military officers went to the guest house and asked the journalists to leave the house to go to Palaly to stay over night for the safety of the journalists. The reason was sited as for their safety they have to stay in Palaly and not in Jaffna town. They journalists spent the night in an army base in Palaly.

On October 5th 2007 the visiting journalists were taken on a two hour facility tour to the Jaffna town. And at the end of the facility tour the journalists were asked to leave Jaffna by a commercial flight to Colombo on October 5th 2007. The journalists could not carry out their duty as planned in Jaffna.

The names of the journalists were Sandra Jordan-Reporter, Siobhan Sinnerton-Camerawoman, Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai-Producer.

This is a blatant violation of people's right to information. Jaffna citizens has right to voice their concerns independent of any military or armed outfit. The government duty is to protect those rights not to protect the violators of these rights.

Jaffna has been under Sri Lanka government and military rule for nearly 12 years now. If it cannot allow independent reporting from Jaffna even after 12 years of its rule, that shows there is real problem that needs to be addressed.

FMM would like to emphasis that this incident symbolises the issues facing journalists in Jaffna. It again proves the assertion by International Freedom of Expression Mission on Sri Lanka that Jaffna is one of the most dangerous places in the world today for media and journalism. For last two years government has virtually barred information coming form Jaffna.



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